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LocalEats Top 30:
Best Barbecue Restaurants
in America
The following are our list of the Best Barbecue Restaurants in America (in no particular order). The list is updated regularly, so check back!

Portland, Oregon

No one's confusing Portland for Dallas anytime soon, but the tender brisket at Podnah's (as in a heavily affected "howdy podnaaah") may temporarily transport your taste buds to the Lone Star State. Native Texan Rodney Muirhead, who rises at 5 am to fire up the pit every morning, opened Podnah's in 2006 and relocated to a former church in early 2011. Like any respectable barbecue joint, sauce is kept mostly on the side, and the meat is gone when it's gone. Bonus points for daily specials such as smoked lamb ribs and smoked meatloaf.

Hemingway, South Carolina
Serving superior Carolina 'cue out of a country store, Scott's specializes in real-deal whole hog barbecue. Friendly pitmaster Rodney Scott (a member of all-star barbecue team the Fatback Collective) slow cooks the whole hogs overnight over hickory coals in an impressive smoking shed out back. The signature pork sandwich with the secret peppery vinegar-based sauce is the best seller, but it's good to know you can purchase an entire hog if ever the appropriate occasion arises.

Lockhart, Texas

One of the most renowned barbecue spots in Texas (and therefore, anywhere), this German-style barbecue restaurant dates back to the turn of the century as a meat market and grocery store. Though it relocated to more spacious digs near the highway in 1999, Kruez Market still draws locals and barbecue pilgrims alike for superior beef cuts and sausages sold by the pound — the boneless prime rib remains their signature cut. Pickles, saltines, white bread and sauerkraut accompany your meat-centric meal, but you'll find NO SAUCE, in keeping with tradition. Lord help you if you ask for sauce.

Goldsboro, North Carolina

A Goldsboro institution dating back fifty years, Wilber's cranks out quintessential Eastern North Carolina barbecue. Wilber Shirley has kept his deliberate process consistent since taking over the operation in 1962: whole hogs are cooked over wood embers for 8-12 hours then chopped and mixed with a thin vinegar and pepper sauce. Why mess with what works?

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville barbecue baron Jack Cawthon sometimes greets patrons at the doors of his three Jack's Bar-B-Que restaurants, one on bustling Lower Broadway across the alley from the historic Ryman Auditorium - look for the neon flying pigs sign out front. A combo plate with ribs (the region's best), pork shoulder and beef brisket pairs nicely with mac and cheese, green beans cooked Southern-style (meaning cooked to glorious death) and fried apples. The nicely prepared smoked turkey breast, chicken and sausage also have their followers.

Chicago, Illinois

Drawing inspiration from the Carolinas, St. Louis, Memphis and Kansas City, Irving Park's Smoque pays tribute to all of our nation's most celebrated barbecue regions. But it's their Texas-style brisket (which they nearly left off the menu) that keeps the place consistently packed. It's coated with two layers of a complex dry rub and smoked 14 hours before being finished with a touch of their brisket sauce. St. Louis-style ribs, pulled pork, mac-and-cheese, and spicy sausages round out the menu.

Lexington, Tennessee
Though Memphis may reign as king - thank ya very much - of the Tennessee barbecue scene when it comes to national notoriety, it certainly does not speak for the entire state. West-central Tennessee is a hotbed of whole hog barbecue with a colorful history. Ricky Parker of Scott's-Parker's Bar-B-Q in Lexington, TN is the last man in Henderson County going whole hog. Countless hours of painstaking hard work and 18-20 hours of smoking certainly yields "some pig." When you order, the meat is taken directly from the hog and put on your plate.

Kansas City & Olathe, Kansas

Great barbecue restaurants rarely pop up overnight. Like many of the most celebrated BBQ joints in the country, Oklahoma Joe's got its start on the competition barbecue circuit before settling (many accolades later) into its unique service station/liquor store digs in Kansas City. It's by a wide margin the best pulled pork sandwich you'll ever have from a gas station. Don't leave without sampling the burnt ends (brisket).

Austin, Texas
From food truck to brick and mortar, pitmaster Aaron Franklin packs in the crowds at his Franklin Barbecue, which has garnered media praise and attention from the likes of The New York Times and Bon Appétit, the latter naming it the best barbecue restaurant in America in 2010.

Charlotte, North Carolina

This family-owned barbecue joint is nothing fancy to look at, inside or out, but customers have been packing in for quality lunches of down-home 'cue since 1963. Until his death in 2007, at age 78, Bill Spoon himself greeted guests at the door. His Southern hospitality lives on, though. Hush puppy baskets and tall glasses of sweet tea are kept full, and pork is prepared Eastern Carolina-style (the whole pig, with a vinegar-based sauce). Whether you're there for a small or large plate, a sandwich or a combo, the meat is seasoned enough as is, though the house hot sauce is worth sampling if you like more zing.


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Since 1995, "Where The Locals Eat" and LocalEats dining guides have featured locally owned restaurants across America. From the finest steakhouses and sushi bars, to classic burger joints and roadside barbecues, LocalEats recommends unique restaurants to suit every taste and price range. More
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